On Again, Off Again BMW i5 Off The Table — Again

Few concept cars have gotten as much press attention as the long rumored BMW i5. The German luxury car maker burst upon the electric car scene in 2011 with two highly innovative models that married electric powertrains with advanced carbon fiber manufacturing techniques. The i3 sedan, with its funky styling, became a cult darling, but suffered from modest range. The plug-in hybrid i8 sports car coupled an electric motor for the front wheels with a turbocharged 3 cylinder engine driving the rears.

BMW i5 concept via autocar

It was widely assumed an i car would come along eventually to fill in the model range. In fact BMW often suggested it was working diligently on an i5. But somewhere along the line, BMW lost the thread of the conversation. Here are just a few of the Gas2 titles about the i5 unearthed from the archives: BMW i5 Under Consideration As Tesla Model S Competitor (2013), BMW i5 Could Be Powered By Toyota Hydrogen Tech (2015), Rumor: BMW i5 Will Be An SUV Arriving In 2021 (2016). Whew! That’s a lot of news for a product that never materialized.

Now, the well respected BMWBlog says the whole i5 idea has gotten the kibosh from management. In a blog post dated May 23, it wrote, “According to several sources, BMW has scrapped their i5 plans and will focus on electrification of other series models — like the X3 and 4 Series GT — and on the high-tech iNEXT model. This move will leave the i sub-brand with two models, i3 and i8 this year before the i8 Spyder is being added to the lineup.” The iNEXT is the all singing, all dancing BMW concept car the company wants to be its signature vehicle as it moves into its second century as an automaker.

BMWBlog says the carbon fiber chassis used in the i3 and i8 is not flexible enough to accommodate the large variety of automobiles in its product lineup. Instead, it will focus its energy on cars that can be powered by a variety of powertrains —  both electric and plug-in hybrids. BMW is following the example of Korean companies Kia and Hyundai, both of which now offer customers new models that can be had with their choice of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or electric powertrains.

The future of the automobile is murky at best. It’s OK for Tesla to be a battery electric only car company, but the rest of the industry is trying to remain as nimble as possible so it can build the tens of millions of cars each year the world craves that are not pure electrics.

“The all-electric MINI and the all-electric BMW X3 will mark the beginning of the second wave of electrification for the BMW Group, benefitting from the ongoing technological progress we are making in this area,” said BMW CEO  Harald Krüger last week. “i NEXT sets out our strategic course for further electrification and the direction of project i over the coming decade. We will incorporate all-electric, battery-powered mobility into our core brands, as we have already done successfully with our plug-in hybrid vehicles. By using highly flexible architectures we can avoid duplicate investments in plant and equipment and will be able to adapt our range of electric and conventional vehicles to changing demand both quickly and efficiently.”

Source: BMWBlog  Image credit: Autocar

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.